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Paradigm


Melvin Goldsmith

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My feeling is that for some copying some fine Old Cremonese instruments that current published generally accepted theory originating from the great work of Saccconi and developed on that theme which I know word for word cannot explain how these violin was made .....could basing our ideas around Sacconi's findings and developments of them be holding us back?

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Currently I am copying a Strad from 1695....its is quite a daunting prospect...this violin shows Strad at the height of his craftsman's powers and my client is a virtuoso player who fell in love with the Strad...so I m very keen to get everything done well and this has got me contemplating...

My feeling is that for an instrument like this and others similar that current published generally accepted theory originating from the great work of Saccconi and developed on that theme which I know word for word cannot explain how this violin was made .....could basing our ideas around Sacconi's findings and developments of them be holding us back?

In my opinion, you'll be ok if you realize that Sacconi was only observing and speculating about what he saw Strad doing.

If you follow all of his advice closely, (his arching and varnish advice in particular) on the other hand, I believe that you'll wind up in trouble.

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I never read Sacconi,but I know of his stellar reputation , that said/ it strikes me as odd/... that arching and varnish are arguably two of the most important aspects of violin building ,yet we today must still beware of follow the leader...U Utah Phillips RIP said "If ya gotta have a hero make sure he's dead so he can't blow it"...has the ring of truth to it does'nt it?

Paradigm (love the word but seldome get to use it) shift in nature and history generaly takes on a waveform profile, it either, dissapates in the vast void of space,for example, Disco, or it encounters a resistance that causes it to rise into a mighty force that crashes suddenly. i.e. the Roman Empire. Perhaps the internet and MN are helping the Paradgm to shift in ways that we will not be able to see from our perspctive, for years, I mean who would have guessed, that I could be talking with people from around the world,with some of the best in the world, casualy chatting? real Dick Tracy stuff.

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My feeling is that for some copying some fine Old Cremonese instruments that current published generally accepted theory originating from the great work of Saccconi and developed on that theme which I know word for word cannot explain how these violin was made .....could basing our ideas around Sacconi's findings and developments of them be holding us back?

Melving,

Sacconi on varnish aside....If I read you correctly....What you propose is the opening of an interesting door: Do not throw away the past and the foundation it provides, but do not treat it as gospel. Following your line of thinking I have a suggestion. This is a method I use in the varnish workshop. I call it the ouch point.

As a maker develops in learning to varnish [and I presume in other aspects of making also] you acquire things:

I learned this from my teacher, I saw this on a successful makers instrument and I tried it, someone whose instrument sold for lots of money used this product and the color was great, I just found this NEW pigment and you should see it, Mr. Big gave me this brush, and on. So we add and add layers of material and method and information.

But we never throw anything away.

So at a certain time in our work it is necessary to take a step outside the acquired pile and begin to throw things away. Then, when you throw something away that hurts...that's what you keep...the ouch point....

This is perhaps easier in varnish than in building, but it works.

on we go,

Joe

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Melving,

Sacconi on varnish aside....If I read you correctly....What you propose is the opening of an interesting door: Do not throw away the past and the foundation it provides, but do not treat it as gospel. Following your line of thinking I have a suggestion. This is a method I use in the varnish workshop. I call it the ouch point.

As a maker develops in learning to varnish [and I presume in other aspects of making also] you acquire things:

I learned this from my teacher, I saw this on a successful makers instrument and I tried it, someone whose instrument sold for lots of money used this product and the color was great, I just found this NEW pigment and you should see it, Mr. Big gave me this brush, and on. So we add and add layers of material and method and information.

But we never throw anything away.

So at a certain time in our work it is necessary to take a step outside the acquired pile and begin to throw things away. Then, when you throw something away that hurts...that's what you keep...the ouch point....

This is perhaps easier in varnish than in building, but it works.

on we go,

Joe

I agree, I would add however.

Often times, in order to not need to throw something away, one must simply never pick it up. You can not discard what you never had.

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There have been few books written about Stradivari or Cremonese makers for that matter that have information that even approaches useful. Many makers or repairmen do not take the time to write a book. Either makers are protecting their "secrets" or their information is passed verbally to apprentices. When the "Secrets of Stradivari" came out, even with it's shortcomings it was the best we had in terms of a written record created by a man that had the privledge of seeing many great antique instruments. I asked Hans Nebel what he thought about the work and he said good book but forget the chapter on varnish.

As with posts on this forum I have learned to take everything I read with a grain of salt or even possibly sugar...It is easy to believe someone's dogma especially if you are an "expert" or eloquent in your posts. David Burgess and Jeffery Holmes post here but where are Zig, Curtain, John Becker, Rene Morel, etc.? I would suspect that they are too busy working, stay away from this forum for ethical reasons, don't "do" the internet thing, or are posting or reading secretly...

Does one person know everything? Didn't Einstein fail to construct the unified field theory? Does that mean that his theories of relativity are wrong or incomplete? Only time will tell until the next Einstein comes along...

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My feeling is that for some copying some fine Old Cremonese instruments that current published generally accepted theory originating from the great work of Saccconi and developed on that theme which I know word for word cannot explain how these violin was made .....could basing our ideas around Sacconi's findings and developments of them be holding us back?

I was at a meeting once in Cremona quite a number of years ago having to do with violinmaking and teaching in the school. Someone got up and affirmed that the best method for constructing instruments was using the outside mould like Vuillaume because it is faster and the most logical system. He went on to say that this is the only method that should be taught in the school. All of this coming from someone who was not a violinmaker (his son was) looked more like a political move than anything else.

Later, I added my two cents worth. 1.) The Cremonese method should be studied in the school because we are in Cremona. Turning our backs on that method, or what we can glean from it, is to ignore one of the most important moments in violinmaking history. 2.) I would be happy to know as well HOW Vuillaume really made his instruments because there is more to it than just an external form to be a successful maker. Almost any method that you may study, and even other unrelated disciplines, is going to give you positive input for improving your own working methods. 3.) Most of what I have learned studying the old masters, especially through repair and restoration, is what NOT to do or what to avoid in my own making. There are still an infinite number of solutions out there which will allow you to come up with a violin, mostly it's a question of separating the good working methods from the bad. 4.) The Cremonese makers were practical artisans and were not fooling around with some archaic method when the point of the whole exercise was to produce good sounding and good looking violins in an efficient way. All of this was certainly not by chance.

What Torbjorn says is true. Sacconi thought about it a lot and put a lifetime of observation down in words in a book, it's not complete and it's not perfect but you have to admit he's got us all thinking. ;)

Bruce

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Bruce , i was under the assumption that Vuillaume himself did use an internal mould, and later the outside mould was adopted for the workshop instruments made by any number of makers.In the Vuillaume exhibition book there is a photo of an internal and an external mould.

He used both and in another thread I posted shots of each. I'm sure the person advocating the superiority of the external form was not aware of this.

Bruce

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Melvin, I wasn't aware that makers were relying heavily on the book, or trying to use it as a making manual. Instead, I thought it was generally viewed as Bruce mentioned:

"Sacconi thought about it a lot and put a lifetime of observation down in words in a book, it's not complete and it's not perfect but you have to admit he's got us all thinking."

Is it used or viewed differently in your area?

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I was at a meeting once in Cremona quite a number of years ago having to do with violinmaking and teaching in the school. Someone got up and affirmed that the best method for constructing instruments was using the outside mould like Vuillaume because it is faster and the most logical system. He went on to say that this is the only method that should be taught in the school. All of this coming from someone who was not a violinmaker (his son was) looked more like a political move than anything else.

Later, I added my two cents worth. 1.) The Cremonese method should be studied in the school because we are in Cremona. Turning our backs on that method, or what we can glean from it, is to ignore one of the most important moments in violinmaking history. 2.) I would be happy to know as well HOW Vuillaume really made his instruments because there is more to it than just an external form to be a successful maker. Almost any method that you may study, and even other unrelated disciplines, is going to give you positive input for improving your own working methods. 3.) Most of what I have learned studying the old masters, especially through repair and restoration, is what NOT to do or what to avoid in my own making. There are still an infinite number of solutions out there which will allow you to come up with a violin, mostly it's a question of separating the good working methods from the bad. 4.) The Cremonese makers were practical artisans and were not fooling around with some archaic method when the point of the whole exercise was to produce good sounding and good looking violins in an efficient way. All of this was certainly not by chance.

What Torbjorn says is true. Sacconi thought about it a lot and put a lifetime of observation down in words in a book, it's not complete and it's not perfect but you have to admit he's got us all thinking. ;)

Bruce

Hi BruceI can't disagree with anything you say above. I mean no disrespect to Sacconi rather that we could all be pioneers like him.

It is also a very good thing that you stood up for the internal mold at the Cremona School.

Personally I ( & most of us I guess) am not wanting to move away from what the old masters did but try to get closer to understanding it. In my own work I feel that it is not really satisfying to copy the look of something without a full understanding of how it was made (if that could ever be possible). We know the forms and shapes of the Old Cremonese violins are the result of certain intentions and processes. It would be ideal to have a better understanding of these to be able to work faster and freer. I am sure lots of makers and restorers think the same and my feeling is nothing unusual and folk smarter than me are hard at work on this. My feeling is that there is still a lot of work to be done and despite a lot of fantastic work already done we should not be too confident that we know much let alone enough.

In talking of paradigms, I am not suggesting that we throw the baby out with the bathwater but that we think outside the box. Tobjorn's interpretation of the ventral pin is an excellent example of this.

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Melvin, I wasn't aware that makers were relying heavily on the book, or trying to use it as a making manual. Instead, I thought it was generally viewed as Bruce mentioned:

"Sacconi thought about it a lot and put a lifetime of observation down in words in a book, it's not complete and it's not perfect but you have to admit he's got us all thinking."

Is it used or viewed differently in your area?

Hehe!

My point is that you and I don't actually understand the basic making processe(s) that the old Cremonese used ( well..maybe you do) and this could be slightly constrained by the discourse with theories referring to Sacconi's work as a basis for their own explorations because it to a degree is a foundation text in a sociological kind of way...

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One advantage of the Sacconni 'method' may be that it lessens the likelihood of sometimes confusing variables, ie thicknessing etc, and thereby lessens the likelihood of disasters occurring. Which for many makers is a great help.

I remember playing an exact copy of the Vieuxtemps Strad, it had the same thin back. It didn't sound like a Strad but looked great. So, copying is a very complex subject I think.

;-)

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Hehe!

My point is that you and I don't actually understand the basic making processe(s) that the old Cremonese used ( well..maybe you do) and this could be slightly constrained by the discourse with theories referring to Sacconi's work as a basis for their own explorations because it to a degree is a foundation text in a sociological kind of way...

Me? I shouldn't claim to understand much of anything. I have my theories, like everyone else, but all I can hope for is that when I test them and they fail, I'll let go and move on, rather than clinging tenaciously. If I had several lifetimes, perhaps I could accomplish something meaningful.

I never met Sacconi, but other people in the workshops suggested that he was an explorer, quite willing to move on from yesterday's conclusions when new information came along. Perhaps, that was the downside of fossilizing his thoughts in time by putting them into a book.

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In talking of paradigms, I am not suggesting that we throw the baby out with the bathwater but that we think outside the box.

Perhaps one day we'll come to understand Andrea Amati's violin pattern may have been derived from geometry alone. But he never got his math right. 'Nicky' seemed to be more of an Artisan and made some fortunate improvisations. And some not so fortunate.

Stradivari's adventurous journey left quite an assortment of violin patterns to follow. Some with better tonal character than others. Seems like Stradivari was understanding new things all the time! :)

Still quite a bit left to learn and understand as violin design inevitably changes once again.

Jim

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